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I know how you feel

Updated: Mar 5, 2021

‟I know how you feel’’. A phrase that we often hear from our family, friends, and colleagues, especially when we experience the challenging moments. These words are well-meaning. But they’re not true. When someone says them to us, the unintentional impact can be that we feel less seen and heard. It can shut us down. The person is coming from a good place. Yet they are missing the point. Nobody else knows how you feel. Your difficult work situation is unique. So is your grief. Nobody else is experiencing your life and work as you are. When we are talking about something, whether it’s a challenging life situation or a problem we want to solve, often the greatest gift someone can give us is not immediately and automatically bringing in their own opinions and experiences. We need deep listening. It’s rare. And it’s needed.

Use the following 4 steps to practice deep listening:

  1. Be fully present: hit the pause button, focus, and pay full attention to the other person.

  2. Focus on feelings: look and listen for the emotions. The person may not say how he feels, but his body, face, and voice give clues. Ask for clarifications if unsure: ‟Are you….?’’ ‟Did that make you feel…?’’ Don’t judge the person’s feelings, just listen empathically.

  3. Put yourself in their shoes: while the person talks, try to imagine what he’s thinking and feeling so you will know and understand their needs.

  4. Share: paraphrase the speaker’s perspective (‟I heard you say….’’) and offer support.

Listen to the person without judging, giving your opinion, or debating the view. It let people know you care and are empathizing.

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